NHTSA will finally require child safety seats for side impact protection

Photo: Attila Csaszar – Getty Images

  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will soon begin requiring child safety seats to be tested in side impact tests as well as in the front impact test already in use.

  • Congress asked the NHTSA to come up with such a rule more than 20 years ago, but better late than never, right?

  • In 2021, a team of 17 state attorneys general wrote a letter to the NHTSA stating that the lack of side impact tests “puts children on the street unnecessarily and does great harm to families.”

It took longer than safety advocates, Congress and many state attorneys wanted, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has finally issued a rule for updated side impact tests involving child seats that use safety seats. passenger vehicles. NHTSA allegedly issued the rule in January.

Prior to the new rule, child restraints were only required to demonstrate their effectiveness in tests that simulated frontal collisions of 30 mph. The new rule adds to the list a 30 mph side impact test, also known as a T-bone collision.

Test Dummies “Tossed Around” in previous tests

The problem with the previous system, as reported by CBS News and ProPublica in 2020, was that the NHTSA gave some booster seats passing grades, even though “the test dummies were thrown violently during the tests,” CBS News claimed. this week. The problems reported by CBS and ProPublica led to an investigation by the House Oversight Committee which found that some reinforcing seat manufacturers “[endangering] the lives of millions of American children and misled consumers about the safety of reclining seats by failing to perform appropriate side impact tests. ” CBS has published some dramatic footage of these crash tests.

In July 2021, 16 attorney generals and one of the District of Columbia wrote to the NHTSA about the administration’s failure to enforce side-impact standards for child seats, even though Congress had imposed such a rule 20 years ago. . “As a result of the NHTSA’s inaction, there is currently no government standard for lateral impact tests in the United States for any child restraint,” the attorney general wrote. “Failure to communicate standard lateral impact tests unnecessarily endangers children on the road and greatly harms families.”

Seat manufacturers have three years to comply

The NHTSA said in 2014 that it would operate on a side impact rule for child seats, but only after all this formal and public pressure was exerted by the NHTSA to make it official in a 265-page PDF. The NHTSA now says that child seats sold in the US should “provide adequate restraint, manage lateral impact forces and protect against harmful head-to-chest contact with intrusive structures.” Child seats should also be able to withstand the impact forces of a side impact without collapsing or fragmenting in a way that could harm the child, the NHTSA said.

“Lateral collisions cause serious injuries and deaths to young children each year,” said NHTSA Administrator Steven Cliff. “By introducing more comprehensive testing requirements, we promote the safety of children of passengers and assure parents that the safety seat they choose for their child must meet the highest safety standards.”

The affected seats are those intended for children weighing up to 40 kg and having a height of up to 43.3 inches (basically, children up to about four years old). Previously, NHTSA regulations stated that children over 30 kg could use simple reclining seats instead of the safer child restraint systems discussed here.

Child seat manufacturers will have three years to comply with the rule once it is officially published in the Federal Register and any requests for review have been taken care of.

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